No matter what time of year it is, errands are an unavoidable part of life. (And with the gift-giving season at its peak there are more errands to be run than ever.)
And running errands can be unpleasant: Someone takes the parking spot you had just found; no one is returning their shopping carts to the corral; the person behind you in line is talking loudly on their cell phone. It’s so tempting to get irritated and maybe a little pissy. (Hey, we’ve all done it!)
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Running errands can be an uplifting activity. I heard that—that thought you just had that said, Is she fricking crazy??
It’s true. You can go out into the land of retail and be miserable and make other people miserable too (say, by blasting your horn at the person who snaked your parking spot), or you can use it as an opportunity to practice your “better person” skills. I dare say that after having a couple moments of true human connection with strangers that you will get back home feeling like the world is an OK place to be and people are inherently good.
(Hey, it beats irritated and pissy!)
Here are 5 ways to do that. Use them with impunity this holiday season, and beyond!
Look People in the Eye
Making eye contact is a tiny little thing that has a huge impact. It helps you feel the connection we all share to each other that’s easy to ignore or forget about when you’re in your own little world. You may not feel like chatting with the cashier or the salesperson, but you can always offer them your attention—even if it’s only an instant, it makes your interaction better. (So long as you’re not giving them the stink eye, of course!)
Leave a Positive Review
It’s easier than it’s ever been to act on the impulse to complain about the product you bought or service you’ve received. There’s something about having a phone in your hand that makes it so enticing to really let ‘er rip when you’re angry. But if something good happens in a place of business, we may appreciate it in the moment but we don’t connect the dots and go leave a positive review. Which is a DAMN SHAME, for two reasons: positive reviews help small businesses so much; and it means we tend to give more attention to the horrible stuff than the great stuff.
When you have a lovely interaction on your errands, post about it somewhere (your own social media feed, or Yelp are two good places to start).
Let Someone Else Go First
Make it a point to let at least one other person go first today. Pause to let a pedestrian cross, or the driver on the other side of the intersection from you to make a left turn, or the other folks on the elevator to get off first. Or, you know how when multiple people are standing in front of the counter at the deli counter or the coffee shop and everyone’s like, who was here first? Just say, You go first.
By choosing to let someone else go ahead of you, it gives you an opportunity to actively cultivate your patience and your empathy. It’s a nice way to force yourself to slow down, too.
Stay Off Your Phone
There’s no denying it—it hard to resist the allure of a ringing or dinging phone, or to tolerate the boredom that comes with waiting in line. But you know what? When you stick your head in your phone while you’re waiting, you miss all the life that’s happening around you. You don’t have to interact with anyone to be part of the scene. You can just observe. Or eavesdrop (I love eavesdropping, it’s like a listening meditation.) Your attention stays in the room.
We always used to be off-grid when we were shopping before the rise of cellphones; we can do it again. The world will keep turning. Your brain will appreciate the downtime. And you might just have a nice chat with someone you wouldn’t have otherwise.
Return Your Cart to the Corral
OK, this is just a pet peeve. Please put your cart where it goes! We need all the parking spaces we can get. 😉
As ever, for more inspiration on how to be a better person, check out my podcast!
And if you like what you hear, would you give it a rating or a review wherever you listen to your podcasts? (iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, what have you.)